Oil is the foundation of all vegetarian cooking.  It is where vegetarian meals begin and where they end.  It is like the page or the canvas upon which good literature, poems, music, paintings and photographs are placed.  It is not the work of art itself,  but it is the medium which presents the art, the lighting in the studio, it is the acoustics in the hall.  And good food is good art.

Olive Oil

I always cook with Olive oil.  You wouldn’t want to use it to fry chicken or french fries, but I don’t do those things anyway. 

The best olive oil is the so-called “extra virgin”, or first pressing of the olives only - no stems or anything else is supposed to be there. 

Most olive oils you find in the supermarkets come from several countries, meaning the bottle you bring home contains oil that comes from different farms in different markets in different countries.  Most of us olive oil aficionados prefer oil that comes from a single country.  Which is the best country?  Good question.  Most good answers involve three countries:  Spain, Italy and Greece.  Usually I use the oil from Italy, but sometimes Spain, occasionally Greece, where olive oil came from.  Which is the better?  Well, you know that Europe maintains a consistency of differences.  No two bratwursts or pizzas are the same, and that goes for everything else including olive oil. 

Currently my wife and I are looking at the regions of European olive oils.  Back in 2004, we tried the oil from Andalucia and thought that was the best we had ever tasted when we were traveling through the endless olive groves from Sevilla via Cordoba to Grenada.  In 2006 we tried the great oil from Athens and found THAT was the best in the world.  But the VERY BEST Greek olive oil was on the island of Crete, near the precious city of many names (Maza, Apokoronas, Hania, Chania, Xania), and that is known as the “sweet” olive oil.  In 2009 we savored the olive oil from Catalonia - well, OK, but - not up to Andalucia - “click – olé!”.  And in 2010 we tried the marvelous Tuscany oil. 

So which is the best?  Personally, I like the oil from southern Spain best of all because it seems to have a more vibrant taste - wakes those taste buds up!  But the oil from Italy has a deep down mellowness that presents the other items in the meal perfectly. Then there is the oil from Greece, which is good, very good - but that special sweet oil from Xania is what you will be served in heaven.

Sesame Seed Oil

POWERFUL!!  Good too.  I occasionally will use a drop or two in a great stew.  No matter how little you use, you will know it is there.